Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is “parroting the lie” that the UK cannot stay in Single Market once it leaves the EU, the Lib Dems have claimed.
The Labour leader today said the Britain would have to quit the Single Market after Brexit as membership was “inextricably linked” to being in the European Union.
However, as Labour MP Chuka Umunna was quick to point out, there are countries who are not in the EU but are in the Single Market - including Norway and Iceland.
Lib Dems Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake accused Corbyn of repeating the “lie” used by leading Brexiteers and said he was now part of “a coalition of chaos with Theresa May.“
While Corbyn was clear on Labour’s Single Market position, he claimed party had yet to take a “judgement” on whether the UK should stay in the customs union.
Corbyn was grilled on Labour’s Brexit position on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, and said: “The Single Market is dependent on membership of the EU.
“What we’ve said all along is that we want a tariff-free trade access to the European market and a partnership with Europe in the future.”
When asked “which side of the fence do you jump?” in relation to being in or out of the customs union, Corbyn replied: “We have to make a judgement on that - we have’t jumped on either side of that fence.
“Again, the customs union is part of the European Union, we could have a bespoke trade arrangement with the European Union which says that we would have broadly similar trade arrangements with other parts of the world.”
While Corbyn claimed leaving the Single Market was an enforced consequence of Brexit, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner admitted such a move would be for “political reasons.”
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Gardiner said: “There are those people in the UK who would like to see us leave membership of the European Union but retain membership of the EEA, the European Economic Area.
“Now, I don’t subscribe to that because I think most of the political reasons that people wanted to leave the European Union would actually not be achieved by doing that.”
Outside of the 28 countries currently in the European Union, four more are members of the Single Market: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The arrangement means those countries are able to sign trade deals with other states, but have significantly less say on Single Market rules which affect their businesses and economy.
Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to stand up for the Single Market is a betrayal of future generations who will suffer most from an extreme Brexit.
“He is parroting the lie used by leading Brexiteers that membership of the Single Market is the same as staying in the EU.
“The Labour leadership is now part of a coalition of chaos with Theresa May, determined to drive through a hard Brexit no matter what the cost.”
Some 74 Labour MPs and peers backed amendments to the Queen’s Speech calling for the UK to stay in the Single Market and customs union - going against instructions from Corbyn.
Three Shadow Ministers were sacked because of their votes - with another quitting- and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry accused the rebels of starting “faux battles” and being “silly.”
Streatham MP Chuka Umunna - who tabled the amendment in the Commons - told HuffPost UK he was “disappointed” by the criticism.
In an interview earlier this month, he added: “The irony is I was actually encouraged - I say ‘I’, my name was just the lead name on the amendment - but we were actually encouraged by frontbenchers and the frontbenchers who resigned were acutely aware of what would happen if this was put to a vote and they voted against the whip, but they were relaxed about that because for them it was a point of principle.
“I think if there’s anything that I’ve learnt from Jeremy it’s that you’ve got to do what you think is right, even if occasionally that’s going to ruffle a few feathers in your own party.